Tracy Water Pumps

By: Rich Rodriguez

Westside farmers rely on the federal government to deliver their irrigation water.{} The source of the H20 is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.{} But getting that water there takes six monster pumps and a 116 mile long canal.

The C.W."Bill" jones pumping plant is a towering concrete facility located twelve miles northwest of Tracy in Alameda County.{} There are six pumps. {} Each is powered by a 22-thousand-500 horse power electric motor. It takes that many horses to move the water uphill to the mouth of the Delta Mendota Canal.{}{}

Right now the pumps are at maximum capacity. {} The water is headed to a very low San Luis Reservoir west of Los Banos.{} Pumping plant engineer Steve Larsen says typically it would go on{}farther until we would fill the San Luis Reservoir where storage for the San Luis unit a total of one million acre feet federal storage capacity there.

The pumping plant was the source of controversy earlier this year. At the intake channel two and a half miles upstream is a fish screening facility built more than half a century ago. Program Manger Ron Silva says the delta smelt that comes into the facility typically end dying one way or another.{}{} He says either they slip through the louvers and get preyed on by predator fish on the way to the pumps, or they may die as a result of the high pressure passing through the pumps.

The Delta Smelt is no ordinary two inch fish. {} It's protected by the endangered species act. The abundance of smelt populations in the Delta is considered to be an indicator of the overall health of the waterways ecosystem.

Last summer a Federal Court Judge shut down the pumps to protect the smelt.{} Silva says they're very difficult fish to predict as far as movement and stuff.{} He says{}there's a lot of triggers like temperature, salinity and trebidity.{}{}

Water engineers believe they've developed a plan to keep the Smelt out of the channel that leads to the pumps. {} It's called two gates. Silva says two gates is actually in the central part of the Delta and its' purpose has more to do with changing hydrology to the plant that the Delta Smelt don't make their way down to the South Delta and succumb to the high entrainment flows caused by the large export pumps.

Two gates would be a five year experiment to modify flows in the Delta to reduce the loss of Delta Smelt and other sensitive water species. For now the proposed project{} remains on hold pending action by the state legislature.